Last Tuesday I got the chance to field my US forces and Germans in Rear Guard using the new Fortress Europe Book. FOW is in a bit of a resurgence at my club and I had a few players to take part in the battle across a small Italian village. The Yanks had been struck hard by a German Counter Attack and needed to conduct a fighting withdrawal. Could they hold or would the Germans overwhelm them and break through their lines before the next defensive line could be established.
US Armoured Rifle Formation
HQ 2 x rifle teams and 1 x jeep
2 x Full Armoured Rifle platoons
3 x Armoured Mortars
Tank Destroyer Formation
2 x Stuarts
4 x M10s – Ambush
4 x M10s
1 x Recce Patrol
3 x Priests
5 x Shemans
This dual formation list is quite the beast. The Armed Rifles remain excellent value and with 5 bazookas are a threat to any armoured force, while the sheer amount of rifle/LMG fire can deal with the infantry. M10s are also fantastic value at 4pts each and are now cautious.
German Panzer Formation
Hq – 2 x Panzer IVs
4 x Panzer IVs
2 x Tigers
3 x Panzer III (Flamme)
3 x Stugs
Full Armoured Grenadiers with panzerfaust.
A little different to its last outing. Rather than using the Nebs they have been removed and the 2nd Panzer IV platoon has been replaced by 3 Flame tanks. The points saving has allowed 3 x Stugs as well. The Flamethrowers can be just as nasty as artillery to infantry and guns while the Stugs provide a really survivable FA7 when combined with its cautious rating. The idea is to keep them at range to make them FA8 while targeting enemy armour. Their Bazooka Skirts also mean they can be used for an assault especially when the number of Bazookas has been thinned.
Captain Franklin watched as the men of his Company finished digging slit trenches by the road out of the village, to the East Lt Herbert was getting his platoon into the cover of the crop field. He did a quick comms check with his embedded mortars and the Priests. They were good and ready to support when needed. He knew they would have pre registered targets of likely enemy advances to bring down fire almost instantaneously. As they passed through the Engineers had laid minefields on the road and around the hill to his front, trying to block the German’s obvious advance points. Lt Axle’s Shermans had taken up position by the vineyard to support both axis of advance, while he had a platoon of M10s and Captain Harris nearby in their Stuarts. Harris’s recce had come back only 10 minutes ago reporting the German position and were now aligned in front of his position.
The recce reported 2 x Tigers and 3 x Stugs advancing on the Church and a platoon of Panzer IVs behind the rocky rise to his front. On the other flank some form of PanzerIII was forming up along with Grenadier support and their Company Command.
The German forces advanced, determined to break through the US lines before they could successfully withdraw and stabilize another line of defense. With a growl of engines and effective orders the Germans surged forward with Tigers taking up position behind the church and the Stugs advancing down the road only to stop as their commander noticed the hastily laid mines. The PanzerIVs tried to advance up the hill but only 2 made it to the top due to the harsh rocky ground. On the other flank the PanzerIIIs dashed behind a farm building while the Grenadiers advanced. Their Company command blitzed forward to engage from the tree line however their shots failed to find targets among the distant Shermans. The M10s took a beating with 2 crews bailed out. If this was all the Germans could out down, then Capt Franklin started to like his odds. With the M10 crews encouraged by Capt Harris the crews remounted and inflicted revenge on the PanzerIVs with one bursting into flames on the hill as their crew spilled out. Fire Mission Smoke shouted Capt Franklin as he called in a smoke screen from his mortars to block the fields of fire afforded to the Stugs and Tigers. The radio crackled with reports of a successful kill by the Shermans on the PanzerIIIs. The huge fire ball suggested he had either hit the fuel tank or something sinister was at play.
Lt Herbert saw the advancing PanzerIIIs readying his bazooka teams to strike. Before he could jets of fire shot out of the tanks engulfing his front lines and his men dive into their trenches. As the smoke cleared he was shocked to see every team was intact just a few minor burns and cases of shock. However under the cover of this the armoured infantry had advanced on his position pinning them as they assaulted. One bazooka found its mark but only bailed its target, however the sheer weight of fire managed to blunt the assault. The M10s weren’t so lucky the combined fire of the Stugs and PanzerIVs blowing them apart leaving only 1 left. .
Capt Franklin ordered the surviving M10 to withdraw behind their lines, they had done what they could. As they reversed, he ordered the next phase of his plan, the ambushing of another 4 M10s on Lt Herberts flank. Blitzing forward from the tree line they moved to flank the Tigers bailing one out and destroying a PanzerIII. Lt Herbets bazookas opened up on the halftracks bailing another. Still the Shermans had no luck failing to penetrate the sloped armour of the Stugs. Capt Franklin called in another smoke barrage in front of the PanzerIVs he had to keep that flank secure now it was lacking AT support.
The firepower coming down on the PanzerIIIs was too much for them and they fell back, however Lt Herbert wasn’t to be let off that lightly, the Tiger platoon had shrugged off its bailed and was grinding down on their position and just as all their heads were forced down by the combined MGs the halftracks. The Tigers assaulted first and a lucky Bazooka round found a week spot and bailed 1, however the other kept coming, slaughtering a bazooka team in the process. Through toughness and guile somehow the platoon held, pushing the Tiger back, while Pvt Ramirez, threw a grenade into the bailed Tiger’s top hatch, silencing it once and for all. The halftracks fared no better with with another bailed out and all of them forced back. By now the Stug commander must have worked out where the mines were and crossed the area safely, engaging the Shermans at close range along with the HQ Panzer IVs, a punishing volley left only 3 standing. On the other flank the PanzerIVs continued to advance, waiting for the smoke to clear.
Capt Franklin, knew they were delaying the Germans and ordered his armoured mortars to fall back, with their smoke expended their was little they could do now. His Sherman’s advanced and started to engage the remaining Tiger, however its tough hide bounced all the rounds that hit home and his M10s also failed to acquire the Tiger in the heavy smoke of the battle. Capt Harris advanced his Stuarts to engage the Stugs weak side armour however despite his stabilizers he couldn’t find the mark.
Lt Herbets brave men again beat back another Tiger’s advance however this time their is no damage to the mighty tank. Capt Harris’s M10s had started to attract attention and their weak armour is no match for the German AP rounds and 2 blow up as the crew struggle to get out. The rest of Capt Harris’s formation comes under a lot of attention and his deputy is blown up and he himself is bailed out, while half his recon is shedded by the Stugs. The Shermans don’t fare much better with only a single 1 now left.
Capt Franklin pulls his remaining Sherman back off the line while Lt Herbert’s bazookas start blowing up halftracks forcing their occupants out into exposed positions. The 2 remaining M10s still cant kill the Tiger though. Faced with a hopeless battle the 2 remaining recce jeeps dash back behind the hotel. The line is holding but the pressure is now immense.
As the battle rages repeated assaults by the Tiger get repelled, helped by Lt Herbert’s inspired leadership and on one of those assaults the beast is bailed. At this critical juncture Lt Herbert cannot get his men up to fight, they are too busy reloading and dealing with their wounded as well as under constant suppressing fire from the dismounted panzergrenadiers, who are now delivering sustained fire from the barn.
Capt Harris is obliterated by the PanzerIVs which press forward along with the Stugs. Trapped in a vice the US casualties mount and they are forced out of their foxholes. The line is bending to breaking point, and Capt Franklin is still pulling forces off the line.
Capt Frankin, fast running out of forces and knows the whole defense is on a knife edge. Lt Herbert’s platoon finally gives ground to the Tiger and it looks like the Hq PanzerIVs are going to push them further, but with luck on their side, 2 x bazookas hit home and they are stopped in the their tracks. The same cant be said on the other flank, under devastating MG fire, and now in the open, the platoon is ripped apart and forced to fall away from the objective areas by a Stug Assault. That’s it the way is open for the Germans to break through, and Capt Franklin fears the next line of defenses wont be ready.
8:1 to the Germans
Another nail biter, it all came down to that final assault by the Stugs and PanzerIVs, had the armoured rifles held then they would have carried the game. The Tigers were quite unlucky losing one so early really limited the assault plus the presence of the CiC kept the US counterattacking. I am not sure the US would have any easy answer to a Tiger company. The Panzer IIIs were also incredibly unlucky, they scored 4 hits, 3 of which were on bazookas and non of them died, even with brutal and a 1+ firepower! I still think their is potential for them.
The US forces still gave a great account and the score doesn’t really show that. The M10s are still a huge threat and it was only the hill that allowed the PanzerIVs to take a platoon so easily. The Amoured Rifles remain a steal at 15pts, those 5 bazookas really stop armoured assaults and it has enough bullets to stop anything else. If they come in veteran form in the next US book that will be interesting, 4+ to hit bazookas will give Tigers something to think on.
Next time a Stug Battery will be facing off against a combined Churchill & Hero Rifle force as we continue to enjoy our adventures into Late War.